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RE: Sinosauropteryx filament melanosomes challenged

-- On Tue, 12/7/10, Sim Koning <simkoning@msn.com> wrote:

> I agree with everything you say, but I think the concept of
> "higher" life has its uses when placed in a larger context.
> The universe as a whole seems to self complexify; that is to
> say that the universe started out as simple particles, then
> matter, accretion disks, stars, planets, primitive self
> replicating polymers, DNA based life etc. 


Supernovae, white and brown dwarfs, black holes, quasars, pulsars etc. Just 
because your brain is perceiving a trend in the universe doesn't necessarily 
mean that such trend actually exists.


> Endothermic life
> has a higher potential to evolve larger more complex brains,
> which in turn can lead to technology, which in turn could
> lead to artificial life, until for all we know, something
> like a matryoshka brain (or Dyson sphere) is the "end"
> result; the entire process could often culminate (all over
> the universe) into something that is as far "above" us in
> energy usage and complexity than we are above bacteria. 


Whoa, whoa, whoa! This is the endothermocentric fallacy brought to its most 
extreme. What is your basis that endothermy gives one the capacity to do all 
that you say (and by "endothermy" I assume you are talking about automatic 
endothermy, or the classic "warm-bloodedness" of mammals and birds)? 

What, because humans have large, complex brains, and that humans have evolved 
technology? That's a sample size of ONE. You can't even make a line out of 

You know that the next "most advanced" animal society is in the world? The one 
that also has agriculture, architecture, war, slavery, and maybe even language 
and culture? 

Social insects. Especially the various ant and termite species out there. These 
are "cold-blooded" animals that have a series of ganglia housed in 
mushroom-like bodies, instead of having a "brain." 

Furthermore, what is it about any of these traits that warrants a "higher 
status" than, say, a bacterium that can swap in arsenic for phosphorous in its 


> while evolution doesn't have a "goal" and it's not a ladder
> to be climbed, it is a process that tends to produce
> increasingly complex systems that may increase in both the
> rate and quantity of total energy consumed/used. This is
> actually the basis for the Kardashev scale in which
> hypothetical civilizations are categorized based on the
> amount of energy consumed; a type I being a planetary scale,
> II an entire star, III an entire galaxy. 


Again, this is a trend, or pattern that your brain has perceived, but is there 
any statistical, or other empirical data to back it up?

The Kardashev scale is a neat though experiment, but this piece of science 
fiction says more about the biased nature of humans (and western civilization 
in particular) than anything else. There is no reason to believe that any 
civilization should progress in the way suggested by the Kardashev scale, just 
like there is no reason to suspect that a tribe of bushmen in Papua New Guinea 
should go through a "bronze," or "silver age." The only reason we see things 
like industrialization in "third world" countries is because of the global 
nature of our society. We are extending knowledge gained from one culture, to 
others, rather than having it evolve separately.

Besides, how trustworthy can something like the Kardashev scale actually be 
given that we don't even have an example of a type I civilization?


So in this context,
> I would definitely say that archosaurs and mammals are
> higher forms of life than reptiles, but not because they are
> "superior" but because they tend to be more complex, more
> intelligent, use more energy and have the potential to
> produce sapient life.


You do realize that "higher" and "superior" mean the same thing right? 

Again I must ask: where is your supporting data for any of this? 

Archosaurs are composed of all (as far as we know) oviparous animals. Meanwhile 
the "lower" lepidosaurs have evolved the "more complex" reproductive mode of 
viviparity over 100 times! Some, such as skinks of the genus _Mabuya_ have even 
evolved placental feeding of their young. Many shark species have done the 

Meanwhile mammals have lost complexity in their eyes, by losing two of their 
cones (regained one in primates), which has resulted in "simpler" colour 
patterns for mammals. And all of this isn't even taking into account the 
evolution of parasites, which buck the whole "more complex" trend entirely.

As for intelligence, what is your metric? Is it because we can teach dogs to 
lead blind people? How many monitor lizards do you suppose have been trained to 
do that? How many people have even thought of trying? Check the literature and 
one will see that "intelligence" studies on "lower life forms" were practically 
unheard of until around 20 years ago. Even now there is plenty of resistance to 
the thought of intelligent reptiles, sharks, or insects. 

Mammals and birds appear smarter because mammals and birds are more popular, 
and they are easier to get grant money for studying.

Then there's the whole energy thing. How an animal that uses up to 99% of its 
ingested energy just to stay warm, is supposed to be "higher" is beyond me. 

But if we were to play that game then I suppose elephant nosed fish 
(_Gnathonemus petersii_) have a "higher" developed brain than humans given that 
it currently holds the record for highest maintenance costs.

As for sapience. Well, as I mentioned before: a sample size of one doesn't 
really say much of anything.

I don't usually vote to dump old terminology, but concepts of higher and lower 
organisms, along with the concept of evolutionary progress and ladders just 
needs to be done away with, as it has never been a useful way to look at life.